Nov 30, 2010

Review | This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas

Seventeen-year-old Olivia peters has long dreamed of becoming a writer. So she's absolutely over the moon when her literary idol, the celebrated novelist and much-adored local priest Mark D. Brendan, selects her from hundreds of other applicants as the winner of the Emerging Writers High School Fiction Prize. Now she gets to spend her summer evenings in a college fiction seminar at the nearby university, where dreamy college boys abound and Father Mark acts as her personal mentor.

But when Father Mark's enthusiasm for Olivia's writing develops into something more, Olivia quickly finds her emotions shifting from wonder to confusion to despair. And as her wide-eyed innocence deteriorates, Olivia can't help but ask - exactly what game is Father Mark playing, and how on earth can she get out of it?

Cover: This cover is sort of bleh for me, because of the purple lighting. But I really like the girl and the look on her face; it captures what I expect the protagonist to have felt throughout the book.

Thoughts: As I started off the book, I knew what it was going to be about and where it would eventually lead to just by reading the summary. For the first few chapters, I wanted to scream at Olivia to turn and run. I didn't want her idolizing, admiring, trusting Father Mark because I knew there was something just wrong about him.

It starts off simple enough; we are introduced to Olivia who is an honest, trusting, likeable girl who wants to be a writer. She is, obviously, stoked to find out that she has won a writing contest and will be mentored by the literary idol and priest, Mark Brendan. Not only does she love his work, but priests have always been a huge part of her life and have played the "father "role that her own father didn't fill when walked out on her family.

The story continues simple as well, a few meetings here and there. Learning about the characters, her friends, family, the new guy she meets, and more about who Father Mark is. But then he starts to leave her notes, and just happens to turn up wherever she is, and it makes us suspicious. It seems innocent enough, and I can understand why Olivia didn't see anything wrong with it, but sometimes her cluelessness made me want to smack her. As readers, we know what's going on. But the author's writing weaves us through the story and we can't help but think that maybe it is just our imagination. Maybe it is a coincidence.

After a few weeks of this though, there's no denying it. Olivia can't figure out how to fix it, how to get out of this situation and we are lead through the story as she struggles with herself and the thought of how something like this can be happening to her.

I was happy with the conclusion, because even though Olivia still struggled with the after effects of the situation, we know that she has family and friends that will support her. There is no real happy ending, but only hope that there will be better days, and this left me satisfied. No one comes out of a situation like that and resumes normal life like it never happened. It takes time to transition yourself and I loved that the author included this as part of the ending.

This book is creepy and haunting, but completely captivating. I could not put it down and really wanted to finish it, more to just know that everything was going to turn out okay. The author's ability to write about such a tough topic, and show others what it's like to be in this kind of situation, is great and will leave you chilled and open your eyes about stalking.

Favorite Quote: "The thought saved by dinner passes through my mind. If it's not dinner that saves me lately, it's sleep, and if it's not sleep it's, oh, I don't know, cleaning my room, scrubbing the toilet. Just about anything sounds more appealing than dealing with some God damn demand from him."

This book was provided by 1 ARC Tours.

Nov 12, 2010

Review | Aces Up by Lauren Barnholdt

Title: Aces Up by Lauren Barnholdt
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult - Contemporary
Publication: August 10, 2010 by Ember
Format: ARC
Source: ARC Tour
Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old high school senior Shannon Card needs money. And lots of it. She's been admitted to Wellesley, but her dad just lost his job, and somehow she has to come up with a year of tuition herself. But Shannon's dream of making big bucks waitressing at the local casino, the Collosio, disappears faster than a gambler's lucky streak. Her boss is a tyrant, her coworker is nuts, and her chances of balancing a tray full of drinks while wearing high-heeled shoes are slim to none. Worse, time is running out, and Shannon hasn't made even half the money she'd hoped.

When Shannon receives a mysterious invitation to join Aces Up, a secret network of highly talented college poker players, at first she thinks No way. She has enough to worry about: keeping her job, winning the coveted math scholarship at school, and tutoring her secret crush, Max. But when Shannon musters up the nerve to kiss Max and he doesn't react at all, the allure of Aces Up and its sexy eighteen-year-old leader, Cole, is suddenly too powerful to ignore.

Soon Shannon's caught up in a web of lies and deceit that makes worrying about tuition money or a high school crush seem like kid stuff. Still, when the money's this good, is the fear of getting caught reason enough to fold?

Cover: I've seen two different covers for this book, and this is the one I had, and I can say I like it. I can tell it is a teenage girl trying to look older, so it portrays Shannon's character well.

Thoughts: I absolutely love playing cards, any kind of card game is my favorite game. From Texas Hold 'em to Go Fish, I am the first to shuffle the cards. So when I first heard of Aces Up, I knew I needed to get a hold of it. A YA novel about a secret Poker society? Sounds like my kind of book.

My expectations were a bit higher than they should have been, I must admit. I recently read and reviewed Two Way Street, another Barnholdt novel, and I wasn't too happy with her writing style or the way the characters sounded, so I shouldn't have expected much of a difference. But I had expected the protagonist to have a different "voice," yet I couldn't differentiate between the two. They were two different characters, but they sounded the same to me.

The plot is an interesting one and I thought it was a unique idea, just not really developed as I had hoped. Shannon has been accepted to the school of her dreams, but her father has lost his job and her scholarship isn't enough to pay off her first semesters tuition.
She manages to land herself a job at a casino, and even though she's underage, she find a way to get herself in and none the wiser. Hoping to make enough money to be able to pay for school, she never expects to meet Cole, he guarantees her lots of money, if she joins in on the secret poker society.

Shannon was a naive character and that bothered me. I didn't expect her to trust Cole so easily, but she did and I didn't want her to fall for him since he was obviously such a shady guy, but their relationship goes to a different level I didn't expect. She was sometimes annoying, but her personality was likable enough, and my interest in her poker playing skills kept my interest. The other characters, such as Max and Shannon's sister, were fun and I enjoyed their individual roles. They provided support for Shannon and they each had a different personality that I enjoyed.

There wasn't too many details about the actual game, no real explanation to how to play and how she was winning so well, so if you don't know how to play, it was sort of hard to really follow what was going on and you just assumed it's as easy as Shannon made it sound. I expected something with more detail on how they actually were winning so much, but it was all very vague and left me a little disappointed.

Overall, this is a quick, fun read. It contains some romance, lots of comedy and drama that keeps the story moving along. Although there is illegal gambling, underage drinking, and some possibly intense make out sessions, this books seems to steers towards younger YA readers. I recommend it if you are a fan of this authors writing, but I might not suggest it if you have not enjoyed her previous books, since this one is very similar.

Nov 10, 2010

Review | My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

Daniel has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl. Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Sophia (despite her changing name and form) have been drawn together-and he remembers it all. Daniel has "the memory", the ability to recall past lives and recognize souls of those he's previously known. It is a gift and a curse. For all the times that he and Sophia have been drawn together throughout history, they have also been torn painfully, fatally, apart. A love always too short.

Interwoven through Sophia and Daniel's unfolding present day relationship are glimpses of their expansive history together. From 552 Asia Minor to 1918 England and 1972 Virginia, the two souls share a long and sometimes torturous path of seeking each other time and time again. But just when young Sophia (now "Lucy" in the present) finally begins to awaken to the secret of their shared past, to understand the true reason for the strength of their attraction, the mysterious force that has always torn them apart reappears. Ultimately, they must come to understand what stands in the way of their love if they are ever to spend a lifetime together.

Cover: I like it, yes, but not for this book. I don't think it has anything to do with the story. There's no butterflies or anything that I can recall in the book that makes me think..."Oh, that's why the cover has that..."

Thoughts: When I first heard of this book, I thought it sounded fascinating, so I quickly signed up for it when it became offered as a tour book. From the beginning, I was hooked. There is really no way to describe how this book made me feel, but I was deeply touched by the characters and their stories.

Daniel has the memory of all his past lives and is able to remember everything as his soul moves on through different lives, bodies and events. He is also able to recognize older souls so when he first meets his love, Sophia, in a past life, he is instantly able to recognize her in the present as Lucy. Lucy does not have the memory and can't remember her past lives or is even sure if such thing is possible, but she knows that there is a connection between her and Daniel. For some inexplicable reason, she is drawn to Daniel from the first moment she sees him and it will continue to haunt her for years to come.

The story is told from both sides, switching from Daniel's point of view to Lucy's. It goes back and forth between the past to the present and with each glimpse into the past, we are pulled father into the story. With every flashback, we get to learn more about Daniel and Sophia, who he has been following throughout their many lives since the first moment he saw her in his first life, and has come to find as Lucy in the present.

I must admit that I did in fact, have few problems with the book but they didn't bother me enough to not really like it. The beginning of the book is very interesting with lots of interesting details and such, but it seems to drag on a bit and sort of keeps the story slow for the first half. Don't get me wrong, it was a really good beginning and it explains a lot, but the juicy stuff doesn't start until maybe half-way and at times I almost became frustrated with it.

The other problem I had was the ending. You're reading along expecting a this-is-a-great-ending kind of ending and then the book sort of...stops. You blink and think...wait, what? And you flip through those last few blank pages at the back of a book just to see if you're missing something. But no, that's how it ends. Talk about a cliffhanger. I was completely shocked that we were left off that way. But, good news is that there will be a sequel. Yay. And so the story will not only continue, but it will have a proper ending (I hope!)

There is no denying that this is a great novel, containing adventure, mystery, history, and of course, romance. The writing is amazing, each era detailed carefully so that as readers we are able to easily weave our way through the story, seeing, feeling and understanding what is happening. The characters are great and I really loved them all, especially Daniel. The love Daniel has for Lucy is detailed and understandable so you can't help but hope that they will finally find (and remember) each other for this life and the rest to come.

Favorite Quote: "I was sitting up and flushed, and so determined I could barely feel my lungs or any other part of me. Sophia dropped my hand, and she looked as though she was going to cry.
'Please try to believe me,' I said. 'This didn't happen by accident. You have been with me from the first life. You are my first memory every time, the single thread in all of my lives. It's you who makes me a person."

This book was provided by Crazy Book Tours.

Nov 2, 2010

hello blog world, i have missed you so.

Hello everyone! It's been so long since I've been here, but I am finally back. I had to take an unexpected hiatus just because I was dealing with so many things, problems, school, looking for work, and just life. We all know how that goes right? But things are looking up and I am currently working on getting some books, returning a lot of them, and just getting back on track with my reading and blogging. Because I have missed it!

I've had a chance to read quite a number of books in these past...months, has it been? Yes, I do believe so. And I owe many reviews to some tours but like I said, I am finally getting back on track. It'll probably take me a couple days, maybe even another week or so, to get everything settled but can I just was nice to open up my dashboard this morning and see that everything was just the same. You are all still here, reading, reviewing, writing and blogging and everything and I am so glad I get to come back to it all.

I have many books to still review like I mentioned but I was thinking about the whole purpose of my blog. When I first started blogging, I had no idea there was an blogging world out there waiting for me. I really only started writing about the books I read because I wanted to keep track of what I was reading over the years, but now...gosh, it's been almost two years and my blog has come a long way. Some of you might not think so, by looking at it...but I mean, I started with 0 followers. I never expected to exceed 10 or 20, but now I'm at 250+!! I find that amazing.

Anyways, I've always loved reading. That's obvious right? But since I got this blog, I've also become a bookaholic, and there's nothing wrong with that for some, except that I just wanted every book out there and I just started accumulating all these books, piles and piles of books, and I rush to get through them and to get the next one, and it felt...overwhelming and at the same time I actually felt a little bored with reading. I mean, can you believe it?! It just became such a hassle. So although my hiatus was unexpected and unwanted, I was able to slow down and relax and take a break.

Now that I am back, I want to change my reading habits. If I take a week or two or even a month to read a book, I am going to be okay with that. I want to enjoy my reading and if I rush through a book, I want it to be because I just can't put it down, not because I have to mail it out within a time limit. You know what I mean? So it may seem like I'm not back sometimes, but I am. I'm just taking my time and enjoying my books. I think this will also help me improve my reviews and such. We'll see how it goes. And although I would never consider not receiving ARC's, I might hold off on those for a while. And about buying books...well that's just not happening for me now.

So I'll start catching up on my reviews, and I'm making sure to stop by all the blogs I follow to see the changes and everything going on. I am definitely glad to be back.

happy reading :)

and thanks for reading this entire thing, for those of you that did.